Why “Rehab” Is Just Another Word For Strength & Conditioning
As a rehabilitation professional, I absolutely love the feeling when somebody is able to get themselves out of pain, or to complete a movement or task that they were subsequently not able to complete. But being a former collegiate athlete, and getting my start in the industry as a strength and conditioning professional, what I realize now that I love the most is getting people strong.
Strength comes in many shapes and sizes. It doesn't always have to look like the young fit person deadlifting twice their body weight. It can look like a 70 year old balancing on one leg for 30 seconds straight, or a 14-year-old completing their first set of 10 straight pushups. The point is that strength can often be case dependent. The one constant, though, is that strength is empowering.
I think that we in the rehab field have lost site of what the process should look like. Itemized insurance reimbursement, a lack of education, ignorance, etc. have all contributed to the industry’s transition into a more “passive” approach to recovery. Too many people with minor pains and aches reclined back on treatment tables, hooked up to electric stim machines that have shown to do nothing more than relieve pain for minutes/hours. Having things done to them, instead of doing things themselves. And while we are definitely heading in the right direction, it is taking a bit longer than many of us would like to see.
A physiotherapist named Phil Glasgow once said that,
“Rehab is training in the presence of injury.”
The more experience that I gain, the more I start to view myself as a strength coach with the knowledge and power to provide an accurate diagnosis. I don’t want to downplay the importance of that second part, as it was what the majority of my 4-years in chiropractic school were preparing me for. What I do want to highlight, though, is that of all of the tools that I have at my disposal, the ability to get somebody stronger is the best tool that I have.
So why strength training? Why something so simple to hang my hat on? Simply put, time and time again, exercise has been found to be the most consistently beneficial intervention to pain. The mental benefits that it provides range from endorphin release, mood boosting and confidence instillment all the way to pain relief. The physiological benefits include increased bone density, decreased risk of injury, and increased neurological function and joint control. While the scientific community is always working hard to further understand WHY it is that exercise is such a powerful tool, what they have unearthed so far is that the body is extremely resilient. While rest was once thought to be the universal treatment of pain, that notion has now been flipped on its head, and has been replaced with the notion of challenging oneself to get stronger through the pain experience, not cower to it.
In my strength and conditioning practice, I deal primarily with youth athletes. To most of these athletes, especially the successful ones, pain is simply part of the deal. You come to realize that when you constantly demand a high level of output from your body, 100% is never a phrase that is uttered from your mouth, AND THAT’S OK! But the reason that I highlight this point, is that these same people who have a positive approach to pain, are often the ones who see it disappear the quickest when given the proper advice and treatment. I didn’t realize how much my experience as a strength coach would prepare me for my career as a chiropractor. But the truth is that it was a blessing in disguise. My inability to do hands on treatment made me an expert at designing treatment plans for people all based around education, mobility, strength, and some self-myofascial release. And guess what? They got better! And what was worth even more was that they knew what they could do to get themselves better.
That is why when you visit us, you can expect to work hard. We push people to take control of their pain, and to understand why it exists, and what they can do about it. It all aligns with our mission of empowering you to be your own rehab specialist.
Until next time,
Brett Poniros DC, CSCS